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Sharks shoot for three straight as they visit Predators

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (3-3-0) at PREDATORS (3-3-1)


Season Series:
First of four meetings. Last season's matchups were fairly even -- each team won twice and scored a total of 8 goals, but the Predators gained two extra points because both of the Sharks' victories came in overtime. Patrick Marleau had the decisive tally in both those games, Feb. 15 in Nashville and March 8 in San Jose.

Big Story:
Since the return of goalie Antti Niemi to good health, San Jose has picked up its play. The Sharks earned hard-fought road wins in New Jersey and Boston last weekend, and while they still sit last in the Pacific Division, that's largely due to the fact they've only played six games -- tied for the fewest of any NHL team.

Team Scope:

Sharks: It isn't often that San Jose skates in Boston, and when that does happen the focus tends to be on Joe Thornton, a No. 1 pick by the Bruins in the 1997 Entry Draft who was traded to the Sharks in a 2005 blockbuster. Thornton set up the opening goal Saturday by Joe Pavelski, but with the score tied in the third period it was Massachusetts native Benn Ferriero who notched the go-ahead goal with 11:12 remaining as the Sharks went on to claim a 4-2 victory.

"I grew up watching Joe Thornton. Now I get to play with him," said Ferriero, who had been called up a day earlier from the Sharks' minor league affiliate in nearby Worcester. "Pretty cool to come in here and score the game-winner."

Predators: When a baseball team needs to put an end to a losing streak it calls on its stopper -- that's what Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne is to Nashville, and he came up big when the reeling Predators needed him most on Saturday afternoon in Calgary. Rinne faced 33 shots and stopped them all, making goals by Niclas Bergfors and Sergei Kostitsyn hold up for a 2-0 win that halted a four-game losing streak. Now the Predators return home for three in a row.

"When you need a big win, Peks is always the guy who can stand up and give you a real good performance," coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean. "He did tonight."

Who's Hot:
Pavelski has back-to-back games with a goal and an assist for the Sharks. Thornton has 1 goal and 3 assists during a three-game points streak. Ryane Clowe has 1 goal and 4 assists in the last four games and added the decisive shootout goal against the Devils on Friday. … Kostitsyn has goals in two of the last three games for the Predators.

Injury Report: San Jose forward Torrey Mitchell sustained an upper-body injury early in Friday's game against New Jersey and didn't play Saturday in Boston. He could return Tuesday. Goalies Antero Niittymaki (hip) and Alex Stalock (knee) and forward Frazer McLaren (hip) are on injured reserve. … Nashville forward Cal O'Reilly missed Saturday's game with a groin injury. Forwards Mike Fisher (shoulder) and Martin Erat (upper body) and defenseman Francis Bouillon (concussion) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack: Marleau's second overtime goal against the Predators last season gave him three total OT scores and set a Sharks' single-season record. … Predators captain Shea Weber led the team in scoring against the Sharks last season with 1 goal and 4 points. Rinne was 1-0-2 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in three starts.

Puck Drop:
Niemi's return wasn't the only one to spark San Jose -- forward Martin Havlat, acquired over the summer in a big deal involving Dany Heatley, made his debut with the team Friday in New Jersey. He assisted on a goal that night and set up another Saturday by Logan Couture, who raved about his new teammate to the San Jose Mercury News.

"He made a great play on that goal," Couture said. "You can see the vision he has, the skill he possesses. He's so crafty with the puck, and he's smart without it. He's been a lot of fun to play with."

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